How to Find the Right Path by Choosing the Wrong One

Alex Yacavone
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Alex Yacavone graduated from the University of Redlands in 2012 as an Art Major with a concentration in Painting. Now, she has found a job that she enjoys and which utilizes her skills. How did she do it? Well, by going down the wrong path first. From what she majored in to what she wanted to pursue as a career, Alex was wrong, wrong, wrong. The result? She found what was right, right, right.

How did she choose her major?

Alex entered into the University of Redlands thinking that she would leave with a degree in Psychology. Then, second semester freshman year, Alex entered into a drawing class. At the time, she thought nothing of it. She had never taken an art class before and wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be expecting. In her mind, it was one of those classes you take just to get a CC (Creative Credit). Ends up, she LOVED it. Psychology was pushed out of the way to make room for her newly acquired passion for Art.

She still remembers her first drawing class teacher Ben Bridgers. She recalls that he was respectful of each student’s decision of whether or not they wanted to be an Art Major. He also stands out because of his ability to appreciate all styles of art. “He understood what I wanted and why. We have a very different style. It’s so cool that he was able to appreciate a different artistic style and technique and was still able to provide me with the guidance I needed to hone my skills. He really inspired me to continue on as an Art major.”

What sort of classes did she take?

During her time at the University of Redlands Alex was unsure about just what sort of Art Major she wanted to be. Flipping back and forth, she went from being solely a Painting Major to a Painting and Graphic Design Major, then back to singularly a Painting Major. Because of this, she ended up taking more graphic design classes than she would have had she remained a Painting Major the entire time.

She took the standard Art Major courses like drawing and painting classes as well. She also was able to be one of the first to take a course titled: Intro to Visual and Media Studies. This course is now its own major at the University of Redlands and is focused on looking at how advertising can be art.

What is she doing now?

Alex is currently working for a high-end furniture design company in Los Angeles. “I don’t have a specific title as of yet. I guess you could say I’m a design assistant.”

What does that entail? Well, Alex uses the skills that she discovered she possessed in that first drawing class her second semester freshman year. She draws renderings of different mirrors and furniture objects so that the vendors can see the furniture designer’s total vision. She also helps the graphic designer whenever there is extra work to be done.

How did she find this job?

It’s actually quite similar to how she found herself as an Art Major. Just as she had gone to the University of Redlands thinking she wanted to study psychology, she entered into the workforce thinking that she wanted to work in the movie industry. She pictured herself as an art director for films. After graduating, she moved to L.A. and was lucky enough to work in the industry, but found, to her surprise that she did not enjoy it.

Lost after her goal disappointed her, she hit Craigslist and searched for any job she might be qualified for. She ended up applying for a position as a secretary for the design company she now works for. Although it was not the life career she desired, it would provide her with an income for rent while she tried to find her career niche.

When she went in for the interview, she was told, “You’d actually be a horrible secretary but we think you’d be good at this other [design assistant] position.” She agreed and was hired on.

“They kind of took a chance on me and the fact that I was undervaluing myself,” she says of the hire.

So how has her Art degree helped her with life after college?

It’s definitely come in handy with her job. She is required to use a variety of mediums from Photoshop to the good, old-fashioned pencil. Another skill that her major (and the fact that it switched a couple times) has endowed her with is transference. “I understand the value of composition from my background as a painting major, but I am able to take that understanding and transfer it onto the computer.”

As for her life in general, she considers a mindset, rather than any physical trait of Art Majors, to be the most valuable. That is the ability to take criticism. As an Art Major you have to learn to take criticism from everyone (even people you don’t necessarily want to hear it from). You are asked to present your art and then people discuss it. Even if you know someone has a very different aesthetic from you, they still may feel the need to give their opinion, and you are still expected to hear it.

“You learn to take things at face value and not to get personally offended,” Alex says.

Would she do it all again?

She can’t imagine doing anything else. She knows how lucky she is to have found a job that she really likes. Her dad always told her “find something you love and get someone to pay you to do it.” And that’s what she’s done (though it took a couple tries to get it right). By finding out what she didn’t like, she found what she did.

Homework Time! Experiment with other fields of study. If you’re a computer science major, take a creative writing class. If you’re a painter, take a course in mathematics. You never know what you’ll discover. You may enjoy the class more than you think.

P.S. Have you found your way by choosing the wrong course first? Tell us how you discovered the right path.

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